Toppo’s Top Tens – Bust-ups

Football is a passionate game. Fans want to see their team get results, as do the players and managers attempting to deliver them. The supporters who sit in the stands and the players on the pitch become so emotionally involved in the game, sometimes it can result in tempers becoming frayed.

Manchester City boss Roberto Mancini had a stormy encounter with striker Carlos Tevez last week, the two clashing over tactics and Tevez himself claiming the team were not set up properly and playing too defensively. During half-time the two exchanged insults and had to be pulled apart by colleagues. Nothing like a harmonious dressing room is there?

It’s not the first time players and managers have clashed in high-profile circumstances. From on the pitch scuffles to World Cup walkouts, it’s all here in ten examples of when things reach breaking point.

10. Ricardo Fuller and Andy Griffin 2008

Stoke City have recently been accused, amongst other teams, of having players who go into matches ‘too wound up.’ One of them was exactly this during a match at Upton Park during their first Premier League season. Carlton Cole had just scored for West Ham and with the game about to restart, Stoke’s Ricardo Fuller decided to tell his captain Andy Griffin exactly what he thought of his poor defending, proceeding to slap him in front of 30,000 spectators. Handbags.

9. John Terry and Wayne Bridge 2010

They were England team-mates and best of friends whilst colleagues at Chelsea – however John Terry and Wayne Bridge fell out amidst tabloid allegations of Terry’s infidelity with his pal’s wife. Bridge, by now with Manchester City, retired from international football with immediate effect, claiming he could not play alongside the man who had betrayed him.

It all came to a head when Chelsea met City at Stamford Bridge last season. The two came face to face for the first time since the story broke and during the usual pre-match handshakes Bridge refused to shake the hand of Terry in a proverbial two fingers up to his former friend. The snub even made the breaking news ticker on Sky News.

8. The French World Cup Squad 2010

We complain about how poor England’s World Cup was but at least we weren’t as bad as the French, they had a stinker which reached its peak when defender Patrice Evra and fitness coach Robert Duverne had a bust-up on the training pitch.

It surrounded the entire squad’s refusal to train the day after striker Nicolas Anelka was sent home – after a bust-up with manager Raymond Domenech. The French were singing Les Bleus as they exited the tournament without winning a game and Evra and Anelka were given lengthy bans from international football by their own federation. What a shambles.

7. Freddie Ljungberg and Olof Mellberg 2002

The Swedes – if Sven’s anything to go by – seem to be a mild-mannered nation, so it’s surprising to see two of their top players seeing red like this (and I don’t just mean Freddie Ljungberg’s hair.)

During a training session before the 2002 World Cup the winger was on the receiving end of a tough tackle from Olof Mellberg and snapped, scrapping with the bearded defender before the two were pulled apart by team-mates. Listen closely around thirty seconds in and you’ll hear fine Swedish use of the Queen’s English.

6. David Batty and Graeme Le Saux 1995

Things went downhill fast for Blackburn Rovers after winning the Premier League in 1995. The following season they were in the bottom half of the table and in the midst of a poor Champions League campaign, the nadir of which came during an away game against Spartak Moscow.

Just four minutes into the match tempers frayed in the freezing cold to the point where Graeme Le Saux punched hardman David Batty after they both chased a loose ball and bumped into each other on the touchline, the two then grappled before being separated by Tim Sherwood. Being Blackburn and England team-mates the pair hardly covered themselves in glory – Rovers failed to make the knockout stages, Le Saux broke his hand in the scuffle and Batty left for Newcastle a few months later.

5. John Hartson and Eyal Berkovic 1998

During his playing career John Hartson had a hard-man image and was known for a no-nonsense approach to the game. He’s also remembered for this incident whilst playing for West Ham.

Having been on the receiving end of a tough tackle from Hartson, Eyal Berkovic showed his dislike for the challenge and struck the Welshman after he went over to pick Berkovic up. He reacted by booting the Israeli in the head, leaving him unable to eat for two days. Hartson became the first player to be charged by the FA for misconduct surrounding a training ground incident.

4. Sir Alex Ferguson and David Beckham 2003

Following a 2-0 defeat at home to Arsenal in the fifth round of the FA Cup, Manchester United manager Sir Alex Ferguson laid into his players with the famous hairdryer treatment which many who have played for the Old Trafford club will be familiar with. However during his angry outburst the Scot kicked a football boot across the dressing room which struck David Beckham in the face, leaving the midfielder with a cut eyebrow.

Ferguson played it down claiming it was a freakish accident while Beckham borrowed one of Victoria’s headbands to help highlight the damage in front of the paparazzi at United’s Carrington training ground. The relationship between manager and player was strained to say the least and Beckham moved to Real Madrid that summer. This all covered up the fact that Ryan Giggs missed an absolute sitter in the game too.

3. Lee Bowyer and Kieron Dyer 2005

The Newcastle midfielders came to blows during a league game against Aston Villa at St James’ Park. A few minutes after Newcastle had gone 3-0 down, Bowyer turned into a madman in annoyance at Dyer not passing him the ball. The two began scrapping and were eventually pulled apart before both being sent off. Bowyer, torn shirt and all, was fined £200,000 pounds and banned for seven games.

2. Roy Keane and Mick McCarthy 2002

Throughout his playing career Roy Keane was well-known for not having the longest of fuses, demonstrated when with the Republic of Ireland World Cup squad in 2002. Never afraid to speak his mind, Keane criticised the team’s preparations for the tournament to the Irish Times. The claims infuriated manager Mick McCarthy who held clear-the-air talks with his captain, which if anything turned the air blue.

The two became involved in an argument in front of the whole squad, with Keane launching a foul-mouthed tirade at his manager resulting in him being sent home from the finals. He must have been gutted to miss three weeks in the company of the ever charismatic McCarthy.

1. Brian Laws and Ivano Bonetti 1996

As this list has proven, players and managers failing to see eye-to-eye does happen, but its arguable if any have compared to this. It may have happened lower down the football league ladder but purely for how the fall-out occured, it’s my number one.

In 1995 Italian Ivano Bonetti signed for Grimsby Town, a world away from the footballing hotbeds of Milan, Turin and Rome he was used to. The midfielder became an instant fans favourite at Blundell Park – however following a 3-2 defeat away to Luton Town he was on the receiving end of criticism and more from manager Brian Laws. Unhappy with what he saw as a poor performance from Bonetti, he let him know about it in the dressing room.

Bonetti responded with strong words of his own and got a face full of chicken for it. Laws threw a plate of chicken wings across the room into Bonetti’s face, shattering his cheekbone. Why chicken wings were lying around in the dressing room remains a mystery, however it spelled the beginning of the end for both player and manager at Grimsby. Bonetti moved to Tranmere Rovers in the summer of 1996 and Laws was sacked a few months later – neither have set foot in a KFC or Nando’s since.

Are there any other famous football bust-ups? Tweet them at or

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